I had a lot of fun today getting to join David Wohl at an improvisation station at Whole Foods. David is a great piano player, and we had a lot of fun playing off of each other as we frequently “winged it” on tunes that only one of us knew. It was part of the Off The Hook Chamber Music Festival that Jephta Bernstein directed.
The improvisation station was a big hit, with people stopping by and hanging around to ask us for lots of requests. We entertained people ranging from 1 to 80ish.
The tune we chose today was Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which is just a gorgeous tune. We nearly played it as a cha cha, but settled for playing it straight ahead and pretty.
And, as much as I love it straight, I think that Iz really rocked this tune and gave it a whole new flavor.
Over the Rainbow according to Wikipedia
“Over the Rainbow” (often referred to as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow“) is a classic Academy Award-winning ballad song with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. It was written for the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, and was sung by actress Judy Garland in her starring role as Dorothy Gale. Over time it would become Garland’ssignature song.
In the film, part of the song is played by the MGM orchestra over the opening credits. About five minutes into the movie, actress Judy Garland playing the lead character, Dorothy, sings “Over the Rainbow” after unsuccessfully trying to get her aunt and uncle to listen to her relate an unpleasant incident involving her dog, Toto, and the nasty spinster, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy’s Aunt Em tells her to “find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble”, prompting Dorothy to walk off by herself. She muses to Toto “Someplace where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain…..”, and begins singing the song. The famous sequence itself, as well as the entirety of the Kansas scenes, was directed (though uncredited) by King Vidor.
The song is number one of the “Songs of the Century” list compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. The American Film Institute also ranked “Over the Rainbow” the greatest movie song of all time on the list of “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs”. It was adopted (along with Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”) by American troops in Europe in World War II as a symbol of the United States–in fact, Garland even performed the song for American troops as part of a 1943 command performance.
In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp recognizing lyricist Yip Harburg’s accomplishments. The stamp pictures the opening lyric from “Over the Rainbow”.
The Wizard of Oz
The song was initially deleted from the film after a preview in San Luis Obispo, because MGM chief executive Louis B. Mayer and producer Mervyn LeRoy thought the song “slowed down the picture” and that “the song sounds like something for Jeanette MacDonald, not for a little girl singing in a barnyard”. The persistence of associate producer Arthur Freed and Garland’s vocal coach/mentor Roger Edens to keep the song in the picture paid off.
A reprise of the song was deleted after being filmed. An additional chorus was to be sung by Dorothy while she was locked in a room in the witch’s castle, helplessly awaiting death as the witch’s hourglass ran out. However, although the visual portion of that reprise is presumably lost, the soundtrack of it survives and was included in the 2-CD Deluxe Edition of the film’s soundtrack, released by Rhino Entertainment. In that extremely intense and fear-filled rendition, Dorothy weeps her way through it, unable to finish, concluding with a tear-filled, “I’m frightened, Auntie Em – I’m frightened!” This phrase was retained in the film and is followed immediately by Aunt Em’s brief appearance in the witch’s crystal, where she is soon replaced by the visage of the witch, mocking and taunting Dorothy before turning toward the camera to cackle.
Original Garland recordings
Judy Garland first pre-recorded the song on the MGM soundstages on October 7, 1938, using an arrangement by Murray Cutter. A studio recording of the song, not from the actual film soundtrack, was recorded and released as a single by Decca Records in September 1939. In March 1940, that same recording was included on a Decca 78-RPM four-record studio cast album entitled The Wizard of Oz. Even though this is not the version of the song featured in the film, Decca would continue to re-release the so-called “Cast Album” well into the 1960s after it was re-issued as a single-record 33⅓ RPM LP. Garland always performed the song without altering it, singing exactly as she did for the movie. She explained her fidelity by saying that she was staying true to the character of Dorothy and to the message of really being somewhere over the rainbow.
It was not until 1956, when MGM released the true soundtrack album from the film, that the film version of the song was made available to the public. The 1956 soundtrack release was timed to coincide with the television premiere of the movie. The soundtrack version has been re-released several times over the years, including in a “Deluxe Edition” from Rhino Records in 1995.
At the time of Garland’s original release, hers was initially not the most commonly played version in jukeboxes, where versions by dance bands such as Bob Crosby’s and Glenn Miller’s predominated. However, “Over the Rainbow” would eventually become the signature song most closely identified with Garland, and she would perform it for the next thirty years, until her death in 1969. In a letter to Harold Arlen, Garland wrote:
“‘Over the Rainbow’ has become part of my life. It’s so symbolic of everybody’s dreams and wishes that I’m sure that’s why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I’ve sung it thousands of times and it’s still the song that’s closest to my heart.”
Somewhere Over the Rainbow Lyrics
An introductory verse that was not used in the movie is often used in theatrical productions of The Wizard of Oz and is included in the piano sheet music book of songs from the film.It was also used in renditions by Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan (among others). Garland herself sang the introductory verse only once, on a 1948 radio broadcast of The Louella Parsons Show. A second bridge is also used occasionally in theatrical productions. The short reprise, deleted from the final cut of the film, uses the melody of the bridge (or “B” section).
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?